In the series "The Flemish story behind heritage in southern Africa", Margot Cassiers investigates what was achieved with the Flemish Community's long-term investment in intangible cultural heritage in southern Africa. "Why should I learn about Aristotle, not about my grandfather?"

On 5 July, the last of five projects with which UNESCO and the Flemish government officially promoted the preservation of intangible heritage in seven countries in southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Eswatini, Zambia and Zimbabwe, officially ended.

The Flemish Government financed a total of 1,292,252 dollars and that investment did not go unnoticed: "If you say intangible heritage in southern Africa, everyone immediately thinks of Flanders." But in Flanders we hardly know anything about it. Why exactly this project? What happened to the investments? What impact has the project had locally? How do those involved in southern Africa themselves look at this western "aid" and vision of intangible heritage, while their own traditions have long been seen as "primitive" or "exotic" by the colonial view? And what will happen now that the Flemish investments stop?

Margot Cassiers

Margot Cassiers is a Belgian historian and investigative journalist.